RHB Singapore Cup: South Melbourne skinned in second half
South Melbourne’s bid to progress further in the Singapore Cup faced a setback as they crashed 1-3 to Thai outfit Bangkok Glass in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie at Jalan Besar Stadium.
The Australian part-timers took the lead first through Daniel Vasilevski after just 20 minutes in a keenly-contested tie, but a second half fight back by the Glass Rabbits, spearheaded by Gbenga Samuel Ajayi, floored the Victorian Premier League side.
While South Melbourne had fatigue as well as a short preparation time working against them, it was the introduction of Ajayi just over 10 minutes after the restart that completely changed the course of the game.
Two assists and one goal from the super-sub turned the tie on its head and broke Hellas hearts, though the slim scoreline also leaves the prospect of a close second leg and much to take from an otherwise tight affair.
Eddie Krncevic, the South Melbourne coach, was unperturbed by the result, readily accepting the inherent gulf between the two teams.
“There’s a big difference between a professional team and a part-time team, you can see it,” said the former Australia international.
“I thought we did quite well considering that we have only been training for three and a half weeks. The first goal we scored for me was world class but we tired, you can see it.
“Once again, complete difference between professionalism and part-timers, we can see all our boys cramping up towards the end. But its a good experience.”
Krncevic however conceded that his team’s preparations for the game had not been ideal, though he refused to press on the disadvantages as excuses.
“We spent 16 hours (in flight and transit), not that it’s an excuse but it didn’t help. However it was a big difference, like I said, between being a professional outfit and part-timers,” added the former Belgian First Division top scorer.
“The conditions weren’t agreeable. Melbourne’s been cold for the last couple of months, obviously Bangkok is in similar conditions (to here) so it suits them,” he claimed.
“And obviously Bangkok were here at the tail end of their season, so they had more rhythm. They came with 26 players, we came with 15. To me I saw some positives and we’re going to prepare for 2011.
“When we were fresh we played okay, an example is the goal that we scored. There were some nice touches and a beautiful finish.
“And we tired 15 minutes before the end of the first half. Up until then we had the legs. It was very hot for us, we’re not used to the climate it’s obviously and advantage for Bangkok Glass. But I’m not taking anything away from Bangkok Glass.
“I thought the No.9 when he came on, he really changed the game for Bangkok Glass. No doubt.”
The No.9, Ajayi, was revealed by his coach, Carlos Roberto de Carvalho, to have been below a hundred percent fit prior to the game, which explained his exclusion from the starting lineup.
Apart from him, former S.League regular Sutee Suksomkit was also left on the bench, making only a five-minute cameo towards the end of the game.
Carvalho revealed that the Thailand international had been in treatment for the past three months for a knee injury, and was making his first return to action against South Melbourne.
The absence of the key players from the Bangkok starting eleven was evident in the stuttering start the team made, as nobody was able to establish control of the game until Vasilevski’s opener.
The midfielder, who also netted in the previous round against Gombak United, calmly finished off a neat one-two just inside the penalty box with a powerful left-footed shot that left Klisana Klunklin no chance at all.
The Thais’ only response was a series of long-range efforts, with Sarun Promkeaw coming the closest as his shot from outside the penalty area ten minutes from the break was acrobatically tipped over at full stretch by the young Stefaan Sardelic.
But Sarun would eventually open the scoring for Bangkok Glass right on the hour mark, and it was the lively Ajayi who was the architect.
The forward cleverly worked his way down the left flank and to the byline, before pulling back to the unmarked Sarun, who had to apply the simplest of finishes from just outside the six-yard box and with a clear view on goal.
The introduction of Ajayi, as well as the concession of the equaliser, clearly weighed heavily on the part-timers’ capabilities, as they were fully stretched in all departments.
Just ten minutes after the equaliser, Ajayi put his team in front himself after latching on to a through ball from Kunihiko Takizawa. His effort, though weak and aimed low at the near post, managed to deceive the inexperienced Sardelic.
But Sardelic could not be blamed for the third goal eight minutes from time, as this time Chatree Chimtale bravely dove on to the ball inches from the open goalmouth after Ajayi had powered his way past three defenders to chip into empty space inside the six-yard box.
Carvalho was a calm presence after his team’s shaky win, but accepted it was always going to be a difficult tie.
“It wasn’t going to be easy because both teams were a little bit tired,” said the former Brazil international.
“We had a team that knew how to win. But football is football, inside the field it’s not easy.
“I’m not surprised (with how South Melbourne started). Our team started well, but after that we lost concentration, that’s why they scored.
“After that we controlled the game, we got more possession of the ball and we had some chances. But we didn’t play so well in the first half, second half was okay, much better.”
The former Thailand national coach also let in on his team’s preparations for the second leg, as well as their expectations.
“Today we enjoy this win. Tomorrow we start to do (training). Tomorrow we have one friendly for players who did not play today or didn’t have enough time to play,” he said.
“We must respect the other team. Football is football inside the field. Today’s game is history. The second game will be another history.”
With the tie balanced at just a two-goal margin, Krncevic was also aware that the possibility of salvaging an aggregate win was a possibility.
“How we recover is very important now (for the next game),” said the 50-year-old.
“We’ll get the boys back into ice baths and hot spas. And hopefully feel a little better come Friday.
“So we’re not going to give up. We’re not saying we’re giving up. We’ll try to go out and win the game on Friday.”